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The forensic accountant: Stack v Dowden

By Chris Makin. Chris has practised as a forensic accountant and expert witness for 20 years, and for 8 years as a civil and commercial mediator.

As forensic accountants we often assist lawyers in matrimonial proceedings, however we are seldom involved in the break-up of a cohabiting couple. English law, as yet, does not recognise the common law marriage.

A few weeks ago, I was asked to help in a case of a co-owned property. The facts were complex, but there were elements of a marriage which had come to an end without the conclusion of the financial arrangements before the death of one party; a challenged will, and a dispute between the surviving ex-spouse and the executors of the deceased’s will, to whom the deceased had left shares in properties.  These were in the name of the deceased, but the surviving spouse claimed a share of the sale proceeds because of alleged contributions to the purchase of the properties.